Water Words (on using images in ESP: Financial English)

Financial English Ian MacKenzie
One of the absolute best supplementary books to use when teaching banking or financial types is Financial English by Ian MacKenzie.

However, despite the absolute wealth of vocabulary it contains, the exercises can be a bit difficult for students to do, especially if they've never seen the words before and also the book is, quite frankly, a wee dry.

If you've been reading my blog for a while then you've probably already gleaned by now that I like to have a bit of fun in my lessons... and I've noticed you do too... while still sticking to the core learning objectives.

trickle downSo in this posting I'm going to hone in on two different approaches to working with lists of words, when presenting a visual lexis.

For this example, we'll look at the language in unit 2.10 of Financial English, Liquid Metaphors.

Step one:
Divide up the following words by the number of students you have:

2.10 includes:
channel, dry up, flood, flow, pour, run out of, swim, trickle down, drain, ebb and flow, pool, source, awash, crest, depth, under(water), fluid, sank, plug.

*To mix things up, I also brainstorm a list of related lexis with my students and provide extras before evenly distributing these amongst the students e.g. (water)fall, drop, river, cross that bridge, laundry, ocean, wave & drown.


Step two (the dogme version)

Hand out the vocabulary and ask your students to draw pictures matching each word.


As great masterpieces aren't expected, you'd be surprised how much 50+ year old bankers enjoy doing this type of activity, LOL!

For the words they have difficulty drawing (because they don't know them) either encourage them to help each other out, mime the words or allow them to use a dictionary.


Step two (the techno-teacher version)

Give your students their share of the words and set image searching as their pre-task activity.

They can use Google images (use safe search), any photo based web 2.0 platform and/or my personal favorite, flickr. Remind them to look for images that are creative commons licensed.

Ask them to copy the pictures into Powerpoint, create slides & label if wished.

n.b. if you don't have a computer in the classroom this pre-task can be set as a home based activity.

powerpointStep three

Spread the pictures across the table or if you have one, pin them up on a corkboard.

Encourage your students to present their drawings or slides and to share their understanding of the words they've learned with each other.

Step four

Do the exercise provided by the book* - if feasible, get them working in pairs of groups discussing the different solutions applying the words to a financial context, referencing the pictures on the table.

*obviously although I'm using Financial English as the example here, you can do this activity with any vocabulary book.

awarenessStep five

Build awareness by highlighting and discussing the common expresssions i.e. trickle down, run out of, riding on the crest of a wave, pulling the plug on something, a huge pool of resources etc - encourage them to come up with alternative sentences using these.

Step six

Now ask your students to write up a short essay reusing the metaphors. For example, in this case, they could describe:

  • their company's financial situation
  • a project they're currently working on
  • their country's economy
  • the financial crisis and the global economy
  • a current financial news item (e.g. a company heading toward bankruptcy or being listed on the stock exchange)

Step seven

Correct their pieces and get them to share what they wrote with each other - encourage further conversation on the opinions stated - reusing the collocative phrases as often as possible.


Side note: I've done both of these methods with my learners and they all reported 1) increased awareness of the vocabulary and 2) a noticing of the lexis in later financial news articles.

For me, these approaches of working with images, while similar probably have different effects on memory.

I've been thinking about it and reckon that they probably trigger different learning processes (one involves some physical learning and discovery of the lexis, the image searching would result in immediate association between the word and image) however, honestly, as I'm not a scientist nor do I have a masters in second language acquisition, I'd really love to know your professional take on this issue.

Do you know of supportive texts that back these ideas up?

Have you/would you also do this type of activity with kids or teens? Why, why not?

Useful links related to this posting:

  • The Weboword Ning - for vocabulary enthusiasts, lovers and learners! This is the world's first community dedicated to Visual Vocabulary.

6 Responses to “Water Words (on using images in ESP: Financial English)”

  • Shelly Terrell says:
    August 18, 2009

    Another wonderful activity that engages students. I thoroughly enjoyed the drawings! LOL! Your students are such great sports, perhaps if I gave them your creative dogme lessons my students would let me take photos of their work or them!

  • Glennie says:
    August 18, 2009

    A great activity.

    I dare say the scientific underpinning for what you are suggesting is there somewhere in the literature. It may well be that some sts will do better with dogme and some with flickr depending on the kind of people/learners that they are. And that might well be reflected upon in the literature.

    But common sense tells me that learning is almost always going to be qualitatively better if sts are asked to make the kind of fun input you propose here AND do a bit of teaching as they explain their voc to the rest of the class.

    As a footnote, I think it would be very important to target expressions that are actually frequently used as opposed to expressions that exist but get very little airing. If you are using a textbook, the author should have done that work for you. However, if you are coming up with a lesson from scratch, you might need to do some googling to check the frequency of use of the expressions you propose to have students investigate and use.

    August 18, 2009

    Glennie, super tip on checking for high/low frequency via Google! And ta, for your great comment ;-)

    Shelly, highly recommend Scott Thornbury and Luke Meddings' Teaching Unplugged.

    Explains dogme as student-centered teaching practice, activity suggestions and provides tips for working with course books and in specialized courses.


  • WeboWord says:
    August 20, 2009

    Hey K

    That sounds so much of what we do @ WeboWord! :D

    A small addition we'd like to make to Step two of the dogme version is submitting scans of their creations @ http://weboword.ning.com and being featured on http://www.weboword.com.

    We are sure you know about us K! :) And we'd love to feature the creations your students have made.

    Warm regards,

  • Faiza says:
    August 21, 2009

    Hi! Really liked the way you explained the activity which engaged your students so well! I have a collection of images on my site to explain over 800 difficult words. Your students are welcome to use these in further class projects.

    August 21, 2009

    Guys, check out Faiza's link - FANTASTIC.

    What an amazing site, thanks for sharing the details with us.



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